Belgium has given the United Nations a message of hope and determination to move towards a denuclearised world,” Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib said on Tuesday during a working visit to the United Nations headquarters in New York.
The main reason for Ms. Lahbib’s presence in New York was her participation in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Review Conference, which began there on Sunday, but the Foreign Minister also addressed the controversy that has developed over her visit to Crimea last year, in an interview with Belga News Agency.
During her address to the Conference, Ms. Lahbib indicated Belgium’s continued commitment to the use of civilian nuclear applications, both in the field of energy and for health care.
The international meeting, which is planned every five years by the countries that signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, should have taken place in May 2020, but had to be postponed several times due to the Coronavirus crisis.
“This conference is all the more important in the context of the current geopolitical tension caused by Russia’s unjustified war against Ukraine,” Ms. Lahbib said in her address. “Belgium is deeply concerned by the alarming expansion of Iran’s nuclear programme,” she added.
“North Korea continues to flout international rules,” the Belgian Foreign Minister noted. “International pressure on the regime must be sustained, in particular through the strict application of the sanctions by all countries, without exception.”
According to the minister, Belgium’s voice remains important because it has a reputation as a builder of bridges.
During her visit to New York, Ms. Lahbib also met representatives of UN Women, the UN entity committed to gender equality. Their discussions focussed on the fate of the women in Afghanistan and the women who are victims of the war in Ukraine.
On the sidelines of her official visit to the United Nations headquarters, Ms. Lahbib spoke to Belga News Agency about the controversy over her trip to Crimea. It was "regrettable," in the current international context, she said, that a national political controversy had been stirred up by around a trip she made, as a journalist, to the region in 2021, and which she had "never hidden".
“Had I known at the time that I would be a minister in the following year, perhaps I would have acted differently,” she noted.
Ms. Lahbib confirmed that she intended to visit Ukraine when conditions allow it. "We are going to prepare this trip, but it cannot be improvised. The timing has to be right," she said.
According to the Belgian Foreign Minister, discussions have been held at the highest level between Belgium and Ukraine since the information regarding her trip to Crimea resurfaced last week. "We have reiterated our mutual trust," she said.